Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Day 4: Karomajong Tribe

 We made it to breakfast by 8:30 just like every other day.  Most days however, we were being woken up at 5:00am by the call to prayer at the Muslim Mosque around the corner.  The chant would go on for a minute or two and then you could often hear chanting afterwards for a little while.  It was an eerie feeling that took me right back to those feelings of being in Northern Africa when we worked for Cafe 1040.
At 8:30, Mama Rebecca would have an amazing breakfast spread ready for us in the dining room. Toast, hardboiled or fried egg, popcorn and peanuts (she said she thought we would really like this ;), watermelon, pineapple, and bananas.  After a little while, we loaded the bus for Jinja to meet up with Damali. We were going to help her set up a bank account to deposit funds in so she would not have cash in her house.  Remember, at this point, Damali didn't know the final amount we had given, she had only accepted the equivalent of 40$ up until that morning.  She got in our bus after we picked her up from the center of town where she had taken a "Bota bota" (motorcycle) to meet us.  She was so excited telling us about how the medicine (Children's tylenol) we had given her was so amazing.  She talked again how she had prayed specifically about their fevers and hoping to be able to buy pain relievers for the babies after immunizations because she did not want fevers to spike, especially in Aaron and others who were HIV+ and had malaria. She was so excited as she told us again how God had not only answered her prayer with these surprise visitors, but with this medicine that far exceeded their own version of children's pain relievers.  She said it worked so quickly and lasted so long. She had never seen such powerful medicine she said. Wow.  All for a 3$ bottle of children's tylenol.
We got her to the bank and one of our team members and leader went in with her. It was quite an ordeal because of course she didn't have all the proper paperwork needed nor did she even know how to sign a signature.  To have an account there, it is all done by signature and identifying paperwork. You sign to withdraw each time and the signatures have to match.  Damali can write in print, but she doesn't know cursive.  So our team member Chris is in there trying to teach her how to write a signature (that she has never needed up until this point in life) and also hoping that she would remember the way she did it to be able to repeat it.  They also told her the amount they would be depositing, just over 1000$ US equivalent in Ugandan shillings.  She was shocked.  This is basically equal to 4 years of the average household income in uganda. They explained how she could just leave it in there and as needed, purchase needs they have for the home: running water hook up, refrigerator, stove, medicines, bars on windows, etc. What a privilege we got to be a part of God blessing Damali.
We then stopped off by Pillars of hope before heading to Masese. This is a ministry to street children.  They find kids on the streets of Jinja and try to provide them with a place to sleep, school fees, etc. They also try to teach skills like tailoring, glass work, working a loom, etc. We gave the kids headbands, watches and some jump ropes and soccer balls. They sang some sweet songs for us and then it was on to the Karomajong.

We then headed off to Masese, slum area, near Jinja to work with a local pastor of the Karomajong tribe.  This tribe is mostly women, widows and orphans, who live in some of the worst conditions.  They are very agriculturally based and live in homes made of mud, straw, sticks and sometimes trash or scraps of wood/metal.

 It was definitely some of the worst conditions we had seen thus far on the trip.  Once we arrived, the women were gathered in the middle of the community under some shade trees, rolling paper beads, making necklaces as a source of income.  Imagine with me, 30 women or so, congregated in a circle, babies nursing, children playing nearby with old tires, sticks, and trash.
 We introduced ourselves and did a short "sermon" if you will about the value God sees in them.  Half of our team got right to feet washing and toe nail painting, while the other half of us sat amongst them and learned how to make the paper bead necklaces and jumped rope and played soccer with the kids.  It was a powerful yet tough day.  I sat next to a lady named Esther who taught me how to make beads. Another lady brought me her 1 month old baby to hold.

Another nearby lady asked me to take her baby, she could not care for it with the other children she cares for: 4 biological children and 3 orphans she has taken in from other family members or neighbors.  I can't describe to you the emotions involved in a conversation between me and a woman desperate for me to take her own child.  She wanted a better life for him.  She wanted him to have a chance at a future better than hers.  I was so affected inside.  Of course I told her that I couldn't and the government wouldn't even let me even if I could. She told me to get paperwork and come back and get him. Ugh. So heartbreaking. After that, I told her how special she was, how God had made her for a special purpose in the story he was writing, how she was fulfilling the call Jesus had put on us to care for orphans, how God had made her unique and special.  "Special?" she said. "oh no, not me...special." My friend on the team Ashley, also had a similar conversation where the lady said "Me? Oh no, not me, I am dirt".  I pray God used us in the smallest way to break through that.  These women turn to alcohol and prostitution to medicate their pain and disvalue, and to bring in a small income for their family.  These women have been left or widowed, living with HIV+ and other conditions.  This was the hardest place for me, and I left discouraged and sad. Children as young as 4 were holding babies in slings on their back with no clothes on.  One of the boys about Wheeler's age or Reese's was holding a 1 year old or so that had no underwear on (pictured below in the green sweatshirt).  He went to pop him up higher on his back because he was slipping, and when he bent over to raise him higher, I saw inside his bottom, caked mud and bugs.
My heart sunk. I would never let my naked child sit on trash and dirty ground with nothing protecting their private areas. Ugh. This was a tough day, but none the less, I was encouraged by the work of Pastor Andrew and Home again ministries that try to minister here to these women, to show them their value, and to help them bring income in a healthy way. We left there after we had bought beads from each woman and been incredibly welcomed and touched by this special community.

After we left there, we returned to Canaan's children's home where we stayed for 4 nights. I had connected (or been claimed by) two 12 year old girls, Joann and Evereen.

So they came running toward the bus as we arrived back.  They stayed at my side the remainder of the afternoon. I really enjoyed my time with them.  They are both orphaned and live at Canaans and in primary 6 school.  Joann asked me if I was going to come back to Uganda. I told her I wasn't sure, but if I didn't see her in Uganda again, I would see her in heaven if she had Jesus in her heart.  She looked at me puzzled.  I said "Do you know what heaven is?" "No" she smiled back. I got to sit there, in the wet grass, and tell her about a home God has prepared for her, where she will never be hungry or sad again. A place where we get to see Jesus with our eyes and worship him for the rest of time.  The smile on her face was so powerful to me. In the back of my mind I just kept thinking... heaven is something we look forward to, but we would not hope for it like they do.  I have a "big" house back home, with many rooms, with feasts of food that never runs out, with my parents close by and my husband that show me incredible love and acceptance.  But for Joann and Evereen, they don't have "parents" to love and hug and play with them all the time, they live in a room with 13 other girls, they used to know a time where they were not sure if they would get another meal (not at canaan's though, they are fed pretty well).  I thought how they would finally feel acceptance in a family where they belong, the love of a father, the freedom from sadness. It was a great conversation and I am so thankful to have had it with them. We played handgames, taught each other songs, they laid on my lap, and we walked hand in hand around Canaans that day. It was a special time with them.

post signature

No comments:

Post a Comment